How Johnnie Walker Established Its Brand Philosophy With The Step Up Digital Mentorship Program

A look at the digital content strategy of 'The Step Up', a digital mentorship program by Johnnie Walker where achievers in the field of fashion, food and music played mentors to young aspirants

Johnnie Walker the step up

Johnnie Walker recently concluded India’s first digital mentorship program ‘The Step Up’ where the whiskey brand played an enabler for young talent in the field of fashion, food and music. Three of the country’s most inspiring young achievers -culinary wizard Nikhil Chib, avant-garde designer Nikhil Thampi and the pioneering musician duo MIDIval Punditz became mentors to aspiring youngsters looking for a step-up in their respective career choice.

A reflection of the brand’s ‘Keep Walking’ philosophy that encouraged individuals to take the next big step, the first edition of Step Up was launched in March 2015, where nine talented aspirants made it through the elimination rounds. A five week challenge saw them showcasing their talents along with their mentors who tested and honed their raw talent through a series of interesting tasks. Their ‘Step up’ journey was captured in a five - part webisode across five weeks.

From pop-up restaurants to celebrity styling to creation of original tracks with limited instruments, Step Up brought forth a unique set of challenges for the young aspirants. The nine also got to showcase their creations at a Johnnie Walker Red Label inspired grand finale in the presence of their mentors and Mumbai glitterati.

And what was in it for them, apart from a horde of prizes – internship with the mentors. One best performer from fashion and food each, won a six-month apprenticeship with Nikhil Thampi and Nikhil Chib, respectively. The best performer in music won an exclusive opportunity to embark on a four-city tour with MiDival Punditz!

We caught up with Bhavesh Somaya, Head of Luxury, United Spirits Limited – a Diageo Group Company to understand the nuances of running a digital mentorship program by Johnnie Walker.

First of all, why a web episode? “The Step Up by Johnnie Walker platform has rich and engaging video content that chronicled the journey of each participant and showcased their step up moments. Hence, an episodic series was an obvious route.”

“Today, the line between traditional media and the web is blurring in terms of viewership, however web provides the added convenience of anytime anywhere TV. We chose YouTube to host our content, since it is the most penetrated video sharing network amongst our target audience,” Bhavesh informed.

The digital campaign was hosted on a microsite as well ‘’, with all the webisodes also available on the Johnnie Walker India YouTube channel. While the microsite also showcases user-submitted entries in each of the fields of food, fashion and music, the YouTube channel has dedicated playlists for the three categories.

MIDIvial Punditz make their pitch:


A bunch of 1-minute videos served to promote the show along with the mentors and mentees. The crisp promos had the URL embedded that landed the viewer on the entire repository of content which was created around this platform. For those who wanted to know more about the show, the users also had an option to land on the campaign microsite.

This is the story capturing the journey of Srikar Shetty, the 25-year-old who won an internship with chef Nikhil:


Here the MIDIval Punditz challenge the mentees to remix a track:


Social networks like Facebook and YouTube were used to drive users to the campaign microsite as well as to amplify call for entries for participation. Bhavesh informed that they also used mobile and advertising platforms like Affle, AdSpruce, Vserv, etc. to promote the campaign.

The webisodes were also uploaded onto the brand’s Facebook page, but was the response better than YouTube? “Facebook gives us a great opportunity to reach out to our existing fan base, while YouTube is the largest online video hosting/sharing platform, so both platforms work well for us.”

“Step Up” fared well in terms of ROI. It received over 1 million views on YouTube alone out of which 23% views were organic. The 13-minute videos also got over 70,000 video views. Total impressions delivered were over 20 million across both YouTube and mobile platforms put together.

Moreover, it helped Johnnie Walker establish its brand philosophy of ‘Keep Walking’ to a digital audience.